IRELAND’S HEALT and Safety Executive is today urging people to make sure their measles vaccinations are up to date.
The warning comes in the wake of a new Unicef report revealing measles cases in Ireland have jumped more than 200% in the last 12 months.
According to the new report, there were 86 cases of the highly infectious viral illness over the past 12 months, compared with just 25 over the course of 2017.
The increase comes in the wake of a major surge in the number of unvaccinated children.
Fuelled by the anti-vaxxer movement, it’s estimated that more than 20 million children a year worldwide over the past eight years have gone without vaccines.
This comes despite the potentially deadly impact of measles if left untreated, which can cause blindness, deafness and brain damage.
Despite this, cases of measles have increased in as many as 98 different countries over the past year with Ireland joined by the US, Thailand, the Philippines and Tunisia in experiencing a notable increase.
Today the HSE urged people to make sure their measles vaccinations were up to date before travelling.
Dr Lucy Jessop, Head of the HSE National Immunisation Office, is now calling on anyone from Ireland planning a trip abroad to ensure they are vaccinated against the disease.
“Measles is one of the most infectious diseases,” she said.
“One case of measles can infect up to 18 people. It is spread by coughing and sneezing, and by close contact with an infected individual.
“As we enter the summer season with families and individuals travelling on holidays, no person or country is beyond the reach of the measles virus.
“The only protection against measles is the MMR vaccine. Two doses of MMR vaccine (at 12 months and when your child is in Junior Infants) are required to be fully protected.
"While uptake in Ireland has remained steady at around 92%, we need to increase uptake rates to the target of 95% to make sure that measles does not circulate here.
"This is important for everybody but is particularly vital to protect young babies as they cannot receive the MMR vaccine until they are 12 months old. They are vulnerable to complications, including death if they are exposed to measles infection.
“Vaccines saves lives and protect against serious illness. Due to good vaccine uptake, we have thankfully not seen outbreaks of other infectious diseases in Ireland that we witnessed in the past but we must not let complacency creep in.
"We must remember vaccines are a simple, effective and safe way to save lives and prevent serious illness.”
Measles symptoms include a coughing, watery eyes, swollen eyelids, sneezing and a general lack of energy.
Unicef Ireland Chief Executive, Peter Power, said: “The foundation for the global measles outbreaks we are witnessing today was laid years ago.
“The measles virus will always find unvaccinated children. If we are serious about averting the spread of this dangerous but preventable disease, we need to vaccinate every child, in rich and poor countries alike.
“In Ireland for example, the cases of measles have doubled in the last three years.
“There is no excuse for parents not having their children vaccinated against measles.
“It’s a very serious disease and children can die if they contract measles.
“The vaccine is extremely effective, and we encourage all parents to have their children vaccinated.”
According to the UN report, the United States topped a list of high-income countries with the highest number of children not receiving the first dose of the vaccine with that figure standing at more than 2.5 million between 2010 and 2017.
There were a staggering 695 recorded cases in the US in 2019, which is the highest since the disease was declared eliminated at the turn of the century.